U.S. Department of Defence


Earlier today at a press briefing, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unveiled the 2010 defense budget.   The plan would cancel several big-ticket weapons programs.

The $534 billion defense budget for 2010 would increase intelligence and surveillance capabilities. An increased production of the unmanned Predator drone that has frequently been pressed into service to strike terrorist camps in the remote Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

Deep cuts in big military machinery, including the $140 billion F-22 fighter jet program and the purchase of 28 new VH-71 presidential helicopters.  The Army’s $160 billion Future Combat Systems modernization program would lose its armored vehicles. Plans to build a shield to defend against missile attacks by rogue states would also be scaled back.

Nearly $11bn would go to fund proposed increases in military personnel.

Sources: Politico; BBCAPReuters

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sraeli soldiers cover their ears as an artillery unit fires shells towards southern Lebanon. Image: AP

Israeli soldiers cover their ears as an artillery unit fires shells towards southern Lebanon. Image: AP

Today’s Washington Post reports on the effect the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah having generated a heated debate within the Pentagon on how the United States should fight its future wars.

An excerpt from the article:

A big reason that the 34-day war is drawing such fevered attention is that it highlights a rift among military leaders: Some want to change the U.S. military so that it is better prepared for wars like the ones it is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, while others worry that such a shift would leave the United States vulnerable to a more conventional foe.

“The Lebanon war has become a bellwether,” said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has advised Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command. “If you are opposed to transforming the military to fight low-intensity wars, it is your bloody sheet. It’s discussed in almost coded communication to indicate which side of the argument you are on.”

U.S. military experts were stunned by the destruction that Hezbollah forces, using sophisticated antitank guided missiles, were able to wreak on Israeli armor columns. Unlike the guerrilla forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, who employed mostly hit-and-run tactics, the Hezbollah fighters held their ground against Israeli forces in battles that stretched as long as 12 hours. They were able to eavesdrop on Israeli communications and even struck an Israeli ship with a cruise missile.

The article cites a study on the war published by the Combat Studies Institute of the United States Combined Arms Center.

That 2007 study is titled  We Were Caught Unprepared: The 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli War which was written by CSI historian Matt Matthews.

Matthews’s historical analysis of the war includes an examination of IDF [Israeli Defense Force] and Hezbollah doctrine prior to the war, as well as an overview of the operational and tactical problems encountered by the IDF during the war.

The study found “after years of counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank territories, IDF ground forces were tactically unprepared and untrained to fight against a determined Hezbollah force that conducted what was, in many ways, a conventional, fixed-position defense.”

On the relevance of conventional warfare, Matthews states:

For six years, the IDF conducted a counterinsurgency campaign against the Palestinians and developed a doctrine rooted in EBO and high-tech wizardry. However, in the summer of 2006, when confronted by a conventional war with Hezbollah, the Israeli military proved incapable of defeating a minor adversary. Although research and analysis of this recent conflict are still ongoing, the emerging details of ill-conceived doctrine and an army marred by long years of counterinsurgency operations still yield valid and important lessons for today’s US Army officers.

This debate will surely intensify as combat operations shift to the Afghanistan campaign and how that war will develop with inevitable future conflicts on the horizon.

Endoskeleton robot from the film The Terminator.

Endoskeleton robot from The Terminator.

P.W. Singer, author of Wired for War, spoke about the use of robotics and war in February, 2009 at the TED Talks series.

Singer discusses the future of war, human psychology that is driving the use of more and more machines, war porn, and asks the question is it our machines or is it us that’s wired for war.

A troop unit of the airborne force of the PLA Air Force. Image: PLA Daily

An airborne troop unit of the PLA Air Force. Image: PLA Daily

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has released its annual report to Congress on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China.  The seventy-eight page report outlines China’s quest to modernize its armed forces and improve capabilities.

Key findings in the report:

  • People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is pursuing comprehensive transformation from a mass army designed for protracted wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting and winning short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its periphery against high-tech adversaries – an approach that China refers to as preparing for “local wars under conditions of informatization.”
  • PLA’s modernization vis-à-vis Taiwan has continued over the past year, including its build-up of short-range missiles opposite the island. In the near-term, China’s armed forces are rapidly developing coercive capabilities for the purpose of deterring Taiwan’s pursuit of de jure independence.
  • The PLA is also developing longer range capabilities that have implications beyond Taiwan. Some of these capabilities have allowed it to contribute cooperatively to the international community’s responsibilities in areas such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and counter-piracy.
  • Over the past several years, China has begun a new phase of military development by beginning to articulate roles and missions for the PLA that go beyond China’s immediate territorial interests, but has left unclear to the international community the purposes and objectives of the PLA’s evolving doctrine and capabilities.
  • Moreover, China continues to promulgate incomplete defense expenditure figures and engage in actions that appear inconsistent with its declaratory policies. The limited transparency in China’s military and security affairs poses risks to stability by creating uncertainty and increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation.

The report also mentions construction of a new People’s Liberation Army Navy base on Hainan Island. “The base appears large enough to accommodate a mix of attack and ballistic missile submarines and advanced surface combatant ships. The port, which has underground facilities, would provide the PLA Navy with direct access to vital international sea lanes, and offers the potential for stealthy deployment of submarines into the deep waters of the South China Sea.” p. 49.

Yulin (Sanya) Naval Base on Hainan Island. Image: FAS

Yulin (Sanya) Naval Base on Hainan Island. Image: FAS

The new base means the Chinese want to project power into the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, said Dan Blumenthal, of the American Enterprise Institute who is quoted in Stars and Stripes.

Blumenthal said the move has already made other countries in the region nervous. That includes India, which has begun upgrading its aircraft carriers in response.

Click here to read the report in its entirety.